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かんじ

Have a textbook or grammar book that you find particularly helpful? What about a learning tip to share with others?

かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Wed 07.29.2009 3:09 am

I was reading about Remember the kanji here on the TJP forums and have some curiosities about kanji.

This isn't really another question about how to learn it. I like my current method and it works really well for me, I think.

I know of the 2000 or so recommended kanji (for reading newspapers?), but if I just wanted to read or write stories, be able to comfortably browse through Japanese webpages, read Manga or play a Japanese video game, how many would I actually need to be able to read and write?

I know exactly 60 kanji. I learn them 15 at a time in a single sitting (although I'm considering dropping it to 10) and write out almost ever single exercise in my Genki textbook, making sure to use kanji wherever I can. It works for me and I've been able to focus on the vocab and grammar in Genki while still learning to both recognize and recall the kanji.

I've been second guessing my current study patterns, though. I can cram 50-60 vocab into my head in a single sitting, practice a few extra times that day and the following day, and then usually can recall them without trouble from then on, as long as I remember to use or at least review them from time to time.

Or I can learn 10-15 kanji in a single sitting. Grammar is grammar and I've found that I can apply new material I learn to old vocab without generally needing to know new vocab*. So I see grammar as an almost entirely separate entity. However, vocabulary and kanji are obviously interconnected. I have never once noticed prior knowledge of a word using a specific kanji aid me in learning said kanji. I have, however, noticed that almost every new word that incorporates a kanji I already know is significantly easier to learn. In fact, I usually remember the word after seeing it only once. Usually.

So should I put more focus into Kanji, cut back on general vocab and continue to study grammar as normal? I already know it would be a little bumpy simply from the fact that Genki does not use such a method. I could probably write more, but I've already written a small essay, so I'll save anything else in the case it's relevant as a reply.

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*The only issue I could see if I cut back on vocab would be that Genki exercises would be more difficult to complete. But I could probably adapt them to use words I already know, except in the few cases that a special word is part of the new grammar.
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Re: かんじ

Postby wccrawford » Wed 07.29.2009 6:48 am

I didn't use RTK, but I used something similar. If you're going to go that route, drop everything else while you do it. It'll take a few months, but the boost it gives your learning is amazing. (Here's the part where I admit I only got to 1300, though... I'm seriously considering going back and doing all ~2000.)

The reason you don't try to do anything else at the time is that it's hard, and painful. Really, it's not fun at all. But the results... Very nice.

Thanks to that method, I can look at a lot of words and have -no- idea how to pronounce them, but I know the kanji and can guess the meaning of the word. When you're reading something that has furigana, the pronunciation is already there and you get to add a little to your vocab for free... No studying.

It's all about investment. You put a lot of the pain up front so you can have more fun later. I'm glad I went this way, but I can see how others might not be.
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Re: かんじ

Postby NocturnalOcean » Wed 07.29.2009 7:02 am

If you know 2000, even 3-4000 kanji perfectly, that would certainly be of help. Do you need to know that many? No.
It's often pointed out that the number of the most frequent kanji that appears is around 1000.
I have never studied anything isolated in my study of Japanese. I always do them all together. Obviously sometimes I put more effort into remembering that certain grammar point, or those special words, or those particular kanji.
I do believe that the best route you can take as a learner is to first use textbooks such as Genki to up your basic knowledge.

Then you can continue with other kinds of textbooks as well, there are books suited for both intermediate and advanced learners. Or you can use native material such as newspapers articles, short novels, and so on, depending on your current level. Try to master that certain article/text that you are currently working with. Learn the grammar that is has. Sometimes it is enough to just read many examples, other times you need to produce examples yourself to make sure you grasp the concept behind that certain grammar point.

Try remember all the vocabulary presented in that text. And at the same time try to learn how to write or read(reading is the most important in my opinion) the new kanji in that text you are working with.

Try read the text both with inner voice and outer voice to get a feel for it. If you have a cd that follows the book, then that's some additional help.

When you have reached the phase where you can read the text in a nice speed without having to stop and think what was that word, or what was that kanji, or what was that grammar again, then you can move on to a new text.

Of course sometimes you wanna speed it up a bit and do more texts over a certain interval. That's fine as well, 100% retention is hard anyway, it will come with repetition. What you have learned will always show up in a new text you are reading(some of it).

That's how I work, and I think it is a very good way of working. People learn differently, but still, I don't think isolating anything when studying language is any good. And certainly not when you are not an advanced speaker.
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Re: かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Wed 07.29.2009 7:44 am

Thanks for the input. I can say for certain that I do not wish to take the RTK route. I do not think I could stand the idea of being able to know the meaning of a kanji without knowing how to pronounce it. I could get by without necessarily being able to write it from memory, although I would prefer to be able to do that, as well.

I could stick to what I've been doing until I finish Genki, which will put me at 145 Kanji and (just guessing) about 650-750 vocabulary. I notice the JLPT keeps the expected vocab to kanji knowledge to about 5:1, which is what I have now and what Genki offers as a whole. I might go ahead and use that as a general rule until I'm to a point where I can just learn what I find interesting.

Still, I can't deny that knowing a kanji used in a word made it much much easier to learn that word. If I spent the next month studying only kanji and grammar, I'm guessing I could still finish the grammar portions of Genki, and learn roughly 250 kanji total. If I continued the way I have been for the next month, I'd have 100 less kanji, but twice the vocab. I'm honestly not sure which is more beneficial.

I'll take your advice to heart NocturnalOcean, especially once I move into the intermediate, and eventually advanced (I hope), levels.
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Re: かんじ

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 07.29.2009 8:36 am

NocturnalOcean's post is very good. To add my own comments, which are kind of the same:

IMO, At the beginning stage, grammar is the most important thing. Obviously you can't *just* learn grammar so you need vocab and kanji also to make the grammar make sense, but without the grammar knowledge, you can't even make an attempt to read real Japanese, even with a dictionary. If you don't know a kanji or word, you can look it up, but if you don't know a grammar pattern, it's very hard to look it up or make any sense of what you're seeing.

My advice is to just follow Genki at first. If kanji interest you, feel free to learn some on the side (for instance, go ahead and try to learn kanji for the Genki vocab even if Genki doesn't tell you that you "have" to learn those kanji), but it's best to follow an integrated system at first.

Once you finish a basic textbook, your grammar knowledge should be at the point where you can attempt to read real Japanese, albeit slowly, and with a lot of dictionary use. Now, you can certainly go from Genki to an intermediate textbook, or you can get something like Kanji in Context that focuses on kanji -- and you can also read real sources. It's your choice.

Good luck!
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Re: かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Wed 07.29.2009 4:21 pm

Alright, three's a charm is one of my sayings, so that's all the opinion I need. I will continue following the course Genki has set forth for me at least up through Genki II. After that, I think I'll shift some more focus towards learning Kanji while doing exactly what you both suggested: attempting to read native material using a dictionary.

Thank you very much for the responses.
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Re: かんじ

Postby yukamina » Thu 07.30.2009 11:55 am

If you're having trouble remembering kanji, telling kanji apart and so on, I think it would be helpful to break the kanji down into their components to make sense of them and see the patterns. These components are mostly radicals, but some aren't.
For example, 健 which is used in the common word 健康(けんこう, health) is made up of 建(to build) and the radical form of 人. 建 is made up of 廴 and 聿. The meanings of the components may or may not be helpful...RTK uses some arbitrary meanings to use in mnemonics, which is one option. You can look up this kind of stuff in JPWce or some other dictionary that has a radical search.

Sometimes one of the radicals indications the on-reading. Using 健 as an example again, both 建 and 健 have the on-reading ケン.

You'll definitely need more than 1000 kanji to reach your goals, however, you don't need to study all the joyo kanji. The joyo will have a lot of kanji that you won't use, but it won't include many others that you do need. I'll suggest that after you learn the more common kanji, just study new kanji as you come across them in your reading. This way your kanji knowledge will be specialized to your field of interest, and you won't have to spend time studying kanji you aren't using.

After you finish Genki, maybe you could use something like Kanji Odyssey 2001(viewtopic.php?f=15&t=13539) to work on your kanji and vocab?
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Re: かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Thu 07.30.2009 2:49 pm

I don't generally have have any problems learning them. In fact, the more I learn, the easier it seems to be to learn more. I think you missed the point of my post, but that's alright. I still appreciate the advice alot, especially for the link. That looks to be a great way to learn the Kanji.
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Re: かんじ

Postby yukamina » Fri 07.31.2009 12:14 pm

Learning the first 100-300 kanji without any special methods isn't too hard, but it doesn't stay that way. I understand that you aren't really having trouble with kanji right now, I just thought I'd share some tips for the future.
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Re: かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Fri 07.31.2009 2:34 pm

That's not something I would have expected, so thanks for the forewarning!
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Re: かんじ

Postby two_heads_talking » Fri 07.31.2009 2:37 pm

yukamina wrote:Learning the first 100-300 kanji without any special methods isn't too hard, but it doesn't stay that way. I understand that you aren't really having trouble with kanji right now, I just thought I'd share some tips for the future.


Sometimes, it's best to let a person stumble a few times. Humility goes a long way to learning.. Lord knows I've met my share of people that never had any problems, until their first problem.. lol
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Re: かんじ

Postby lonelytraveler8 » Fri 07.31.2009 4:38 pm

I shouldn't say I'm having no problems. I'm pushing myself extremely fast, so everything is rather difficult. Even staying motivated can be difficult at times. But I'm really enjoying it, so it's working out.

I've decided I'm going to go ahead and learn up to 100 Kanji for now, which is 40 more than I knew before. My reasoning is that the ~40 I have picked out are used in words that I use regularly in my studies, and so there's no reason I shouldn't be able to start working on solidifying them in my mind during regular practice. Fifteen per day, with regular vocab and sentence creation practice should work.

I keep a separate stack of vocab notecards that I can read and write completely in Kanji, and the thicker that stack gets, the more encouragement I get.
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